Understanding Salt-Based Water Softeners

My mom paid $900. three years ago for a water softener system manufactured (IIRC) by the Nelsen Corporation in Ohio. The system consists of a plastic bin you have to replenish with rock salt and a tall tank that looks like a pressurized scuba-diving air supply.
This system was installed by a very politically important plumbing contractor in her mountain community (you know, the kind of place where there's a dynasty of, well, ridge-runners who have acquired aristocratic status over the centuries). The reason I mention all this is because this guy--and his family--has the reputation of being a PLUPERFECT crackpot.
After begging and pleading with him for two years to be taught how this system really works, I contacted the Nelsen Corp, who at least told me more than this jerk. I was concerned because when I moved in with mom, the "brine tank" (the bin you fill with salt) was so filthy, I immediately disconnected it from the "ionizer?" and started washing it out every other week.
Nelsen Corp as well as King Crackpot claim you don't have to wash the bin, and that scum from the bin never goes into your drinking water. Fine, except there's a cycle specifically named BACKWASH on the "purifier," and I have witnessed water syphoning back from the salt bin into the "purifier" to know either 1) these guys aren't telling me the truth, or (more likely) 2) I have no idea how a water purifier works.
If there is anyone at all here who can describe in layman's language how this 1K piece of crap operates--or doesn't!--I'd appreciate finally learning here. Mom and I are ready to tear the thing out and buy a Brita.
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Google for: "water softener" +theory using the quotes as shown.
These might get you started, but I see lots of possibly relevant links. You might want to ass -magnetic and finesse the search a little more, but: http://www.raynewater.com/Water%20Softeners.html http://www.orwc.uoguelph.ca/ENGLISH/documents/pdf/Water%20Softeners%20Text1.pdf
Pop
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

All the crap in the bottom of the brine tank is because you are using too cheap a salt. All you are seeing is mud from the impurities in the salt. Use "solar salt" instead of "rock salt", and you should only need to rinse out the tank every couple of years.
The pressure tank is full of a clay that adsorbs calcium, magnesium, and to a lesser extent iron and probably aluminum from the water. The calcium ions are replaced with sodium ions. (That's why if the water going in is very hard, the softened water will taste slightly salty.)
When the clays has adsorbed all the calcium (etc.) it can hold, you soak it in saturated salt water and it gives up the calcium and takes up sodium because the sodium is so concentrated. (this is the recharge cycle)
The backwash rinses out the calcium-laden salt water and dumps it down the drain, not back into the brine tank.
The water you see going into the brine tank is fresh clean water to dissolve enough salt for the next cycle.
If you are able to rinse out the brine tank every week, you are not putting enough salt in it. Try to keep at least 40 or 50 pounds of salt in there so you don't have to watch it so closely.
regards, bob
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Try this link... http://www.awqinc.com/softener.html The backwash operation is to clean the filter once a week or so. The dirty brine tank should be cleaned and buy your salt somewhere else. I assume that's the source of the "dirt" in the tank....good luck...Ross
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You already got plenty of good information so I just want to add. Rock salt is the same as it came out of the ground. Contains lots of impurities. Good for removing ice from the sidewalk, not good for softeners. You want solar salt or salt pellets made for softeners. Much more pure.
A softener removes minerals from water making it "soft", but does nothing to purify it. Brita makes purifiers that improve the taste but it does not soften. You may need either or both depending on the water quality.
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

Yes, I certainly did. Edwin, Bob, Ross, and Pop-- Thanks. How strange to get this information within two hours after battling for it for two years.
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Uh oh-- Another question.
I did a Manual Regeneration of the softener after realizing we DO use the "right" salt--not rock salt (as I claimed).
IS THE PURIFIER BROKEN IF YOU USE THE "RIGHT" SALT AND YOU STILL GET SCUM?
I don't want to waste money on salt (as high as $5.79 a bag at HD for rust remover-added) if the machine is broken.
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of water and see if the same thing happens. It could be that you have some bad salt, though that has never happened to me. Also, did you clean out the brine tank? If not, let it get kind of low on salt then get in there and clean it up real good. Be careful not to damage the float.....Good luck, Ross
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On Sun, 9 Jan 2005 16:06:55 -0500, "Ross Mac"

Salt based water softeners work by replacing the iron ions in the water with salt ions. The theory is that this prevents the unpleasant staining of toilets, bathtubs and clothing in the washing machine. I once rented a house with a water softener of this type. It seemed like an expensive solution and the water quality was not noticably that better. Your results may vary.
Problem is, the potable water taps in most houses are not on a separate plumbing system, so the water you drink and cook with might have a higher salt content. You may have to adjust your diet accordingly.
Beachcomber
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wrote:

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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

You can't break a water softener.
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JerryMouse wrote:

You can break it with an axe or with the right hammer...
Best regards, Bob
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But you can clog valves, contaminate resin and a bunch of other things that will make it not work properly.
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Ask the manufacturer to send you an owner's manual.
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